Global Warming Health Fears Are Unsupported by Science

Published January 1, 2008

University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Jonathan Patz published a paper in the November 12 issue of the journal EcoHealth asserting carbon dioxide emissions from the United States are causing great harm in the world’s poorest nations.

The paper claims global warming is devastating the world’s poorest children with the negative impacts of “climate-sensitive diseases, such as malaria, malnutrition, and diarrhea.”

In fact, however, science has proven none of these diseases has any significant link to global warming.

The spread of malaria, for example, is not constrained by cooler temperatures. Before the disease was effectively eradicated in the U.S. through the use of DDT in the mid-twentieth century, outbreaks occurred across the country, even as far north as Minnesota. Malaria outbreaks were common even in such northern climates as Canada, Scandinavia, and Siberia before the widespread use of DDT.

Malaria was also effectively eliminated throughout much of Africa just a few decades ago–until environmental activists had DDT banned because of scientifically flimsy environmental allegations. Now malaria is back with a vengeance, killing millions of Africans each and every year.

Similarly, malnutrition is caused by a lack of food, not a lack of cold weather. Far from hampering food production, the modest recent global warming has resulted in shrinking deserts, more global precipitation, moister soils, and record-setting crop production.

The September 18, 2002 issue of New Scientist reports, “Africa’s deserts are in ‘spectacular’ retreat” with farming becoming possible again in areas that were abandoned to the desert decades ago.

The January 1, 2007 issue of Geology reports under recent, warmer conditions Central Africa is “experiencing an unusually prolonged period of stable, wet conditions in comparison to previous centuries of the past millennium.” Moreover, “the patterns and variability of 20th century rainfall in central Africa have been unusually conducive to human welfare in the context of the past 1400 years,” Geology reports.

The final fear raised by the news release, diarrhea, is also not a temperature-dependent disease. Diarrhea among Third World children is most strongly linked to poor water quality, which can be addressed far more directly and effectively than by efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.